How Getting Married Affects Your Roth IRA

If you are getting married this year, you might be wondering how that will affect your Roth individual retirement account (Roth IRA) and that of your partner. The simple answer? It won’t.

The slightly more complicated answer is that in most cases, you’ll both be able to contribute to your Roth IRA just as you did before, unless your combined income is now higher than the income limits set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for Roth IRAs. And you can’t get around that by either filing separately or contributing to your Roth IRA before your wedding day.

In this article, we’ll explain why.

Key Takeaways

  • Normally, getting married won’t affect your Roth individual retirement accounts (Roth IRAs). You can both keep contributing as you were before.
  • The exception is if your joint income is now higher than the income limits for Roth IRAs set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for couples filing jointly: $198,000 in 2021, $204,000 in 2022.
  • You can’t get around this by contributing before your wedding date, because it’s your status on the last day of the tax year that counts.
  • And you can’t get around it by filing separately, because the income limit is just $10,000 for married people filing separately if you lived with your spouse at any time during the year.

Check the Roth IRA Income Limits

Getting married won’t normally affect your Roth IRA. If you were both making regular contributions before you got married, you can keep doing so afterward. The only complicating factor is that you’ll need to check the Roth IRA income limits for your filing status. Here are the limits:

Do You Qualify for a Roth IRA?
Category Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) Range for 2021 Contribution MAGI Range for 2022 Contribution
Married and filing a joint tax return or qualifying widow(er) Full: Less than $198,000 Partial: From $198,000 to less than $208,000  Full: Less than $204,000 Partial: From $204,000 to less than $214,000 
Married, filing a separate tax return, lived with spouse at any time during the year Full: $0 Partial: Less than $10,000  Full: $0 Partial: Less than $10,000 
Single, head of household, or married filing separately without living with spouse at any time during the year Full: Less than $125,000 Partial: From $125,000 to less than $140,000  Full: Less than $129,000 Partial: From $129,000 to less than $144,000 

Source: Internal Revenue Service

It’s important to note that it’s your status on the last day of the U.S. tax year (and calendar year)—Dec. 31—that counts. Even if you got married on Dec. 30, you will count as married as far as the IRS is concerned.

Most people who are married will file taxes jointly, so check that row in the table above. If your joint income—or, more precisely, your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI)—is below the full amount, then you can contribute up to 100% of your income or the Roth IRA contribution limit. whichever is less. The contribution limit in both 2021 and 2022 is $6,000 (or $7,000 if age 50 or older), so both you and your partner can contribute that amount.

If your income falls within the partial range, subtract your income from the full level, then divide that amount by the phaseout range to determine the percentage of $6,000 (or $7,000) that you are allowed to contribute.

If your joint income is above the full amount for a given year, then you will not be able to contribute to your Roth IRA for that year.

Check the Roth IRA contribution limits when you get married to make sure that your joint income is within them. Exceeding the contribution limit can cost you a 6% penalty on the excess each year until you rectify the mistake.

Understanding Your Filing Status

If your joint income will be too high to allow you to contribute to your Roth IRAs, you might think that you could get around this by contributing money before your wedding day. You can’t. It’s your status on Dec. 31 that counts, no matter when you got married and when you made the contributions. But that also means that if you have already contributed to the Roth for the year and now your income disqualifies you, you still have time to undo the contribution before the tax year ends.

Similarly, you can’t get around the Roth limits by filing taxes separately. As you can see in the table above, the income limit is just $10,000 for married people filing separately if you lived with your spouse at any time during the year.

There are indirect ways of contributing to your Roth IRA, even if you are above the income limits.

How do Roth individual retirement accounts (Roth IRAs) work when married?

There is no special type of individual retirement account (IRA) for spouses. The rule allows spouses who are not earning taxable income to contribute to a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, provided that they file a joint tax return with their working spouse. IRAs opened under spousal IRA rules are not co-owned.

What happens to my IRA when I get married?

The I in IRA stands for “individual,” and even after you get married, the account doesn’t change. When you get married, however, each spouse can contribute to their own IRA up to their annual contribution limit.

Can my spouse contribute to a Roth IRA if they don’t work?

A spouse who is not earning a taxable income can open and contribute to a spousal IRA. Provided that the other spouse is working and the couple files a joint federal income tax return, the non-salary-earning spouse can open and contribute to their own traditional or Roth IRA.

The Bottom Line

Normally, getting married won’t affect your Roth IRAs. Both of you can keep contributing as you were before—up to $6,000 per year (or $7,000 if age 50 or older) each in 2021 and 2022. The exception to this is if your joint income is now higher than the income limits for Roth IRAs set by the IRS: $198,000 in 2021, $204,000 in 2022.

You can’t get around this by contributing before your wedding date, because it’s your status on the last day of the tax year that counts. And you can’t get around it by filing separately, because the income limit is just $10,000 for married people filing separately if you lived with your spouse at any time during the year.

There are indirect ways of contributing to your Roth IRA, even if you are above the income limits. Familiarize yourself with the various strategies by reading up on Roth IRAs and learning the income limits.

Article Sources
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  1. Internal Revenue Service. “IRS Announces 401(k) Limit Increases to $20,500.”

  2. Internal Revenue Service. “Amount of Roth IRA Contributions That You Can Make for 2022.”

  3. Internal Revenue Service. “Amount of Roth IRA Contributions That You Can Make for 2021.”

  4. Internal Revenue Service. “How a Taxpayer’s Filing Status Affects Their Tax Return.”

  5. Internal Revenue Service. “Retirement Topics — IRA Contribution Limits.”

  6. Internal Revenue Service. “Publication 590-A (2021), Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).”

  7. Internal Revenue Service. “Retirement Topics — IRA Contribution Limits.”

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